In December, I traveled to the Philippines as a consultant on a duckweed pilot project. I was gone for eighteen days.. It took 23 hours of flights to go from Iowa’s frigid cold and snow to Manila’s heat and humidity. It was a lovely shock to my system to see green landscapes in the middle of winter. I couldn’t get enough of the rice paddies, mango trees, towering bamboo forests. Still, the prettiest green of all… DUCKWEED PONDS!
My contacts at MP Wood Philippines Inc. turned out to be an energetic, highly talented group of people who saw to it that I was treated to the whole Filipino experience-home cooked delicacies, entertainment, in depth exploration of both rural and city life including several market visits, and scenic travel around the region. I experienced cultural events like a pre-wedding celebration that lasted all weekend in a tiny village and a Christmas show, food, and gifts for underprivileged children, hosted by sixty Montessori school children. What stunned me was that the kids sang and danced to the very same contemporary holiday songs that my daughter sang in last year’s elementary school program in Kentucky. The holiday song circuit is indeed a global one,
I was introduced to researchers, university heads, professors, students, a wide variety of farmers and their farms, as well as the extended families and friends of my hosts. We would all talk late into the night after tucking away amazing meals. No need for a TV as the conversations were always lively. I felt almost guilty as I was having WAY too much fun.
I did put in plenty of time on the duckweed pilot though. I ran hundreds of water quality tests and duckweed mat profiles. I did a ton of practical research on local organic fertilizers and solved algal bloom issues. I expanded the pilot to include another large pond for a new sustainable model and trained a couple of folks in monitoring techniques. I helped tweak the design on a half-finished solar dryer. It was almost finished on the day that I left. I knew it was going to be a winner when a thermometer broke from the heat in the dryer’s solar tunnel. Now THAT’S HOT!
The last evening, the team surprised me with a going-away dinner in a Chinese restaurant. The featured dish of the evening was roasted wild boar. Very delicious. I felt like they killed the fatted calf for me and I was deeply moved. We toasted our friendship and united vision for a more sustainable country with glasses of Red Horse beer. They asked me to come back and I promised I would. Beyond the business side of things, I do feel like I’ve left a piece of my heart in the Philippines. Lovely country, lovely people. Great place for duckweed production.
In painting the exterior of my home this fall, I noticed that the underlayment or “decking” was rotting under some eaves on my back porch. While I didn’t have water leaking into the house yet, I figured that now was better than later in trying a repair.
I put together a 12 foot tall scaffold and worked up the courage to climb up on the roof. Luckily, it wasn’t all that steep. This portion was covered with a 45mm EPDM rubber layer. I peeled back the EPDM and tore off enough shingles to determine where the rotting part stopped and the dry plywood started. I used a shallow cut via my Skill saw and cut a 16″ by 20 ft strip of plywood off the edge of the roof. As several of the rafter ends had rotted as well, I had to shore them up by cutting replicas out of 2×4’s and cut easements for the additional supports. Each piece required 4 specially angled cuts. A royal pain but one nice perk- my nail gun started working again after a year of retirement and made the job that much easier. I then reinstalled new pressure treated plywood, a layer of tar paper, a metal lip along the perimeter, and rolled the EDPM back in place. I used big head roofing nails to hammer everything down and followed up with roofing tar and fiberglass reinforcment netting running the length of the edge.
Sounds simple. Right?
Now the ugly details…
I had to get over my fear of heights. Drinking a cup of coffee while sitting on the roof and enjoying the fall colors of my woods helped tremendously. Wine or beer would have probably worked as well. If the roof could hold the weight, I could build a cool deck up there… (me and my tree house fantasies…)
Whoever built that porch, sporadically insulated it but didn’t use tar paper or plastic sheeting so the wind was free to blow up under the siding, through the cracks in the insulation, and then through some really butt-ugly pressed wood serving as the inside wall. I’ve suffered for three winters with that enclosed porch stealing heat from the adjoining kitchen. Now I know why.
Wasps- As the walls were basically hollow and easily entered through large exterior holes, literally thousands of them have lived and died in those walls and ceiling. None of the living ones stung me which was nice. I couldn’t find my can of Raid, so I struggled with the concept of letting them live. They weren’t bothering me so I’ve taken the high road and am letting them be.
I took a shower and discovered lots of wasp wings in my hair. Must have made me look quite lovely waltzing into Lowes for that plywood yesterday.
In the midst of fixing the roof of the porch, I got a little crazy and tore out the two remaining single pane aluminum windows and replace them with double pane Pella’s that I had laying around. It’s nice to be able to crank the new ones open and let the breeze blow wasp wings around now. I had to tear out the window framing studs and move everything over a few inches which is always fun for someone who has NEVER gotten the hang of perfectly “straight with the planet” anything. That and no upper arm strength so if nails and screws look like your grandma made an attempt at framing a wall, you’ll know why. Luckily, all will be covered up and no one will be the wiser. I’ve muttered THAT to myself more times than I can remember in this home retrofit. Am seriously considering ripping off that siding, sheathing it and replacing with new siding. That’s only a day’s worth of work. Or… nail a crude greenhouse to the whole shebang and use it for passive solar heating this winter. I like that idea better.
Old crappy porch- my new breakfast and plant haven- getting there!!!
Thanks to Nicole and team for helping spread the word on duckweed’s many uses!
Note: Nicole mentions that I eat duckweed. I do but wanted to add that it is only select species grown in very clean
environments and usually cooked. Don’t want to mislead anyone and get someone sick.
Nicole Cartmell of Cape Girardeau, Missouri KFVS Channel 12 interviewed me today out at the duckweed ponds. The news clip will run here in the next couple of days. She asked a lot of great questions and all went smoothly. That is… until she got a shot of me harvesting duckweed with a pole net. As I lifted the heavy net out of the water, the net fell off the pole. We both started whooping with laughter. RETAKE…
Here’s a picture of her in front of Walden Pond, where the duckweed was in fine form today- gorgeous coloration, an even green mat across the entire surface, and a silvery glint if you looked at it at shore level.
BTW: The Second Annual Duckweed Open House is a week from Saturday. 10-2pm. RSVP email@example.com
Next post will detail updates. Have folks coming from a couple of states. Looking forward to a great turnout.
In association with the International Lemna Association, Mother Earth News and Grit’s “Homesteading Education Month,” GreenSun Products is pleased to invite everyone to our second annual duckweed farm tour here in Western Kentucky. The event kicks off at 10:00am on Saturday, Sept. 13 with tours of our duckweed growing ponds. You will learn how to raise high-protein duckweed yourself for feeding to fish, chickens, and hogs, as well as many ways to incorporate duckweed in a robust garden setting. Learn how to raise earthworms, black soldier flies, and more with the incredibly versatile duckweed- the smallest plant on the planet.
Then settle back in a lawn chair next to a duckweed pond for a little country visiting, duckweed hors d’oeuvres and a wine tasting showcasing local vineyards. Bring along a fishing pole and a picnic lunch to make your visit complete!
RSVP for directions: firstname.lastname@example.org
This was a fun interview I did with Mike Podlensy of the Average Person Gardening Show last week. Mike has ordered his first batch of duckweed starter and is going to grow it in his garden now as well.
Quoting his Facebook site:
“In this week’s episode, Mike heads west to the blue grass state of Kentucky and interviews Tamra Fakhoorian, an industry leading expert in the field of duckweed.
Tamra is going to tell us all about duckweed’s uses in food, fuel, water filtration and how many other countries are using duckweed as part of their sustainability.
From there, Tamra is going to take you step by step so you can get started growing duckweed, which species to use, and how to use them to help improve the soil structure in your home vegetable garden.
That, and so much more on this week’s Vegetable Gardening Podcast!
In this episode, here’s what we’ll cover:
-What is duckweed
-Various species of duckweed
-How to grow duckweed
-How to use duckweed in your garden
-International Lemna Association
-Ongoing research about the benefits of Duckweed
Ken Carman, naturalist from Roxbury Park, Hollywood SC, demonstrates how he harvests wild duckweed using a simple pitchfork. He only harvests duckweed on windy days when the lemna bunches up to more than three inches deep. He estimates that he has harvested over twenty tons of duckweed this way over the past two years. What does he use it for? Compost and chicken feed. Visit http://www.RoxburyPark.org for some the best photos of wildlife you’lll see in the region.
Am traveling this week on a duckweed bioprospecting hunt. In addition to collecting lots of cool duckweed strains, look forward to visiting fellow duckweed friends and associates from the South Carolina coastal regions northward to New Jersey. Am kicking off the week with a visit to Ken and Brenda Carman and take a tour of the new Roxbury Park in South Charleston County, SC where Ken is caretaker/naturalist.Ken is the duckweed affectionado that discovered lemna growing underground after being buried for 15 months in a mulch pile. I hope to get a sample of the strain.
Drove 700 miles yesterday after an informative training session for Toastmaster governors in Indianapolis, IN. Love my new TM friends! Such go-getters.
I knew I needed to give it up for the night when the thought of curling up in my backseat in the parking lot of a truck stop started looking real appealing. I drove on another twenty miles though and found a room at 2:00am. Those truck driver days are over.
Last weekend, a television crew lead by Mychaela Bruner from News Channel Six in Paducah, KY came out to do a second story on my duckweed developments. Here is the link to the video. I am very thankful for the interest and support by News Channel Six, my local community and state leaders.
If you guessed Wolffia, you’d be right! You’d win big at Jeopardy but sorry, there is no payoff from my blog site. On the bright side, you’d be in an elite but growing circle of duckweed folks “in the know” and now have the potential for looking pretty smart in biology class. Yes, Wolffia is the world’s smallest flowering plant. You’d have to line up 40 of the little green potato-like buggers end-to-end to make an inch. They flower and produce seeds but well… it’s a rare occurence and even I have not gotten to witness the holy event. They reproduce mainly by budding and reproduce like crazy when awash in fresh water containing ample nutrients. Wolffia is the fastest growing plant on the planet, doubling in weight every 24-48 hours, and up to 50% dry weight of the closest thing to animal protein that Nature can offer. Here is a shot of a couple of species that I am currently growing. Tastes like lettuce, cabbage, and a hint of spinach. Disclaimer: Even though folks in South Asia eat it routinely, don’t go around eating wild-harvested Wolffia as our immune systems are simply not up to snuff.
Our ILA Round Table workshop was recorded today with Dr. Louis Landesman acting as leading expert on fertilization tips for duckweed production. It’s an hour long but one of the best hours you could spend if you were really interested in growing duckweed for urban farming or commercial purposes.
Thanks, Louis. Wonderful job!
A sunny window and spring green loveliness of happy duckweed make up for the damp chill of March. This duckweed was grown primarily on aquarium water from my goldfish with a bit of trace pond muck for micronutrients. It is doubling every three days at present. Another month and sunlight intensity will move that growth rate up to nearly a doubling every one and a half days.
Photo taken by my good friend, Linda King.
Now that it’s getting chilly here and winter is drawing closer, the question looms, “Can you grow duckweed year-round?”
I’ve tried it in various small pond to indoor sites and found that it is possible to at least extend the season by a couple of months here in Western Kentucky with nothing more than temporary greenhouse coverings or window sill batches, depending on how much you REALLY want to grow in mid-winter. I usually start up some trays of duckweed under florescent grow lights but have found that natural light does a better job. In a pinch, I’ve done a bit of both- natural daylight supplemented by florescent T-5 or T-8’s.
BTW: T-5’s are more energy efficient than T-8’s, which in turn are more efficient than T-12’s. However, there is a trade-off in terms of sustainability- if you’ve GOT T-12 fixtures and only are going to use them for a few extra hours a day to supplement natural daylight AND can benefit from their use by using them in a living space to light your den, reading nook, etc… then I recommend you continue to use them as is. If you have to go out and purchase fixtures- shoot for the 4 foot long T-8’s with 6500K Daylite bulbs or order T-5’s as you can afford them for best energy conversion. Here is a great read on indoor fixture and bulb selection.
If growing duckweed outdoors in kiddie pools, consider a simple plastic covering, anchored around the perimeter with boards and held up in the center by an upturned cement block in the water. Simple, fast, and while a bit on the ugly side, will extend your season by a month or two at the very least.
If you have a larger open pond, consider letting nature take a rest and coast until spring. Be sure to harvest enough to keep your window sills green and your heart hopeful when the snow is piling up outside. Your goldfish will love you for it.